Wednesday, July 5, 2017

AV Club 3:58 (joon—paper) 


LAT 3:15 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:05 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Jake Halperin’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

The theme seems appropriate to the season even though it has nothing to do with Independence Day. It’s The NYT Crossword On Vacation. The four theme answers are familiar phrases that can also describe the [Travel edition of a classic board game?], which is the repeated clue.

NYT 7/5, solution grid

  • 17a is CAR TROUBLE. Trouble is still made with the single die in a little bubble in the middle, which means it can’t be lost.
  • 27a is LIFE ON THE RUN. I remember the car with the little pink and blue pegs. The game play in the 1960s assumed standard 1950s gender roles. Wikipedia tells me that the game has been updated to replace the convertibles with minivans and the “Revenge” square with “Sue for damages,” but is mum on the Mommy/Daddy roles.
  • 43a is GO ON VACATION. This is the deceptively simple game of Go, which inspired the simplified version called Othello.
  • 57a is FLIGHT RISK, suggesting a strategy game to while away the tedium of air travel.

I like this. It’s straightforward enough for Wednesday and fun to solve. All the phrases are in the language and I think all the games are well-known.

A few other things:

  • 2d [Very whale-known performer?] is a fresh clue for our old friend SHAMU.
  • 6d [Boing, for a spring] is the SOUND EFFECT. Made me giggle.
  • 10d [Cooking class?] is a FOOD GROUP.
  • 18d [One of a dozen in un frigidaire] is an OEUF. There’s a bad pun in there somewhere.
  • 53d [Mrs. Albert Einstein] gives us a non-Frozen approach to ELSA.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that an ASCOT is the [Neckwear with dress whites]. Hey, sailor. 

Joe DiPietro’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Capital Letters” — Jim’s review

As crossworders we’re familiar with the 3-letter initials of many presidents. And now there’s a crossword based on them.

51d spells it out: [Capital VIP, and a clue to what’s hidden in three letters in each starred answer]. Answer: POTUS.

WSJ – Wed, 7.5.17 – “Capital Letters” by Joe DiPietro

  • 18a [*Pedal-to-the-metal sort] SPEED DEMON. Eisenhower. Nice entry.
  • 26a [*Montana’s 16, e.g.] UNIFORM NUMBER. Nixon. Not-as-nice entry. “Jersey number” seems more in-the-language to me. That’s Joe Montana in the clue, by the by.
  • 44a [*Generous bar order] ROUND OF DRINKS. Roosevelt (the younger). A fine entry, though the presidential initialism only spans two of the words.
  • 58a [*Intimidating look] DEATH STARE. Truman. Strong finish.

Not sure why presidents are hiding out in our grid, but if you don’t mind the lack of a reason, the theme is fine. Do I detect some subtle innuendo in a puzzle about presidents which features [It may be fake] as the clue for NEWS?

Nice fill all around especially ART NOUVEAU, BLOWS A FUSE, and CAHOOTS. I had DEAD TO for 57a‘s [Intentionally ignorant of], so my 30d looked like BLOWS A DUSE. I’ve heard of “dropping a deuce” but not “blowing a duse.”

Other nice things: KRAKEN, FATTED, snarky UH…NO, fully-named JAY LENO, and GUAM (because).

Didn’t know THE JAM [“Town Called Malice” punk rockers], nor the strange-looking words POME [Apple or pear] and SNOOK [Nose-thumbing gesture]. That last one sounds made up; I’m giving it the full Phelps DEATH STARE.

Clue of note: 33a [Edge on a highway, e.g.]. SUV. That’s the Ford Edge.

Other than the unusual bits, this was a solid grid with good fill and a serviceable theme.

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

LA Times

Today’s puzzle gets points for being a little different. I got ILL immediately in the top-left, did the downs below to check if it was ILL there too and so filled in HILL. The rest of the puzzle only emerged with the revealer – UNDERTHEWEATHER. The letters ILL are UNDERTHEWEATHER, and when you’re ILL you’re UNDERTHEWEATHER. It works, sort of. Speaking of that, SNOW and HAIL are weather, but it’s either A SHOWER or SHOWERS; SHOWER feels incomplete… But that’s probably nitpicking.


  • [Avant-garde jazzman who named himself after an Egyptian god], SUNRA. Unknown to me, but I’m sure Pannonica knows him…
  • [Mobster Siegel], BUGSY. My go to mobster Bugsy is Malone; I only recently (as in yesterday) discovered the play was British, not American. Weird!

3.5 Stars

Ben Tausig’s AVCX crossword, “Two Clues Are Better Than One” — joon’s review

hey folks, joon here subbing in for ben who’s busy at the npl convention. sorry for getting to this so late in the day, but better late than never, right?

the theme is spelled out in {They make things easier (as in some of this puzzle’s clues) or, read another way, a description of how this puzzle’s theme answers were formed} EXTRA HINTS, or as it applies to the theme answers, EXTRA H IN “T-S”:

  • {Sit around for 20 minutes with a stopwatch, waiting for some arboreal mammals to finish the 100-yard dash?} TIME SLOTHS. timing sloths is certainly a thing people do, or at least have done. how else would wikipedia know that they move at 4 meters per minute?
  • {Subject of a deleted “Empire Strikes Back” scene in which AT-AT walkers are shown mating after the big battle?} HOTH SEX. AT-AT sex, eh? i thought there might be some tauntaun necrophilia going on in that overnight scene, if you catch my drift.
  • {Mourning ritual after Darth Maul’s death, e.g.?} SITH SHIVA. hey, more star wars content.
  • {Swearing-in ceremonies that get out-of-control?} WILD OATHS.

the other aspect of the theme is that a whole lot (though not all) of the clues in the puzzle get EXTRA HINTS in the standard sense. i won’t list them all, but most of them i found did not really help you solve the puzzle. for example:

  • {LGBT rights group (whose motto is Silence = Death)} ACT UP. if you didn’t know this group (as i did not, although in retrospect perhaps this is a group i’d heard of and forgotten about), the motto wasn’t really that helpful, was it? i suppose it puts the name into a little bit of context, which is nice.
  • {___-de-France (immigrant-heavy area)} ILE. i’ve been to paris, which means i’ve been to ile-de-france, but that extra hint didn’t help. it does, however, give me an excuse to link to this video.
  • {Portico or lanai (or porch)} VERANDA. yeah, the main part of the clue was enough.

some of the extra hints were a little more helpful than that:

  • {Exam given on a Saturday morning (to H.S. juniors)} PSAT. pretty much all of those standardized tests are given on saturday mornings, so this usefully narrowed it down.
  • {Currency in the Zócalo (Mexico City’s central square)} PESO. quite useful if you didn’t know the zócalo, and i didn’t know the zócalo.
  • {Storage area (at the top of the house, not the bottom)} ATTIC. again, a helpful narrowing.
  • {Kansas pup (or the band that wrote “Africa,” but not the band that wrote “Dust in the Wind”; that was Kansas)} TOTO. this amused me.
  • {Biblical figure slain for masturbating (sheesh)} ONAN. okay, the (sheesh) wasn’t really an extra hint here, but i thought this was an interesting way to clue this particular entry, which usually gets the fitb treatment {___ even keel} in standard crossword puzzles, especially given that one of the theme answers is based on WILD OATS. while i’m on my soapbox, though, i want to point out that he wasn’t exactly masturbating (it was closer to coitus interruptus), and the reason he was killed may have been that he refused to fulfill his levirate obligation by fathering a child with his brother’s widow rather than because he wasted his seed. it’s … complicated.

overall, i found this puzzle interesting to solve but not laugh-out-loud funny. four stars.

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13 Responses to Wednesday, July 5, 2017

  1. Mike Buckley says:

    I believe Othello is a simplified version of Reversi, rather than Go. Good puzzle though.

  2. Papa John says:

    Jenni, what you pictured is not an ASCOT. It’s a neckerchief. The clue is in error, too. An ascot is worn with FULL dress whites, which is not standard issue. They’re worn most often by honor guards.

  3. Papa John says:

    I’m assuming the games in the NYT puzzle are meant to keep children and bored adults amused on car trips. I confess I have not heard of or played any of them. For that matter, I’ve never played any of the board games they emulate. Thank goodness for crossings, huh?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The theme answers aren’t actual travel games, they’re just familiar phrases clued as if they’re car games (with board games as components of the phrases).

  4. Brian says:

    Does [Work at it] actually work for DESK? I can’t see how work is anything but a verb in that phrase.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The desk is the “it” here, and yes, “work” is a verb. [What an office drone works at] would be a less tricky way of phrasing it.

      I’m generally not a fan of these “it/what/where” sort of clues, but they’re not used often enough to bug me much.

      • Brian says:

        Ahhh I see now Still feels overly mis-directy to me, but the crossings were fair and the rest of the puzzle was pretty nice. Thanks!

  5. Steve Manion. says:

    The games are of two or possibly three categories. Trouble and Life are (in my opinion) variations of Parcheesi (Pachisi) in which the players roll the dice or select a card and move around a board. Fun, but no real skill or strategy.

    Risk is a great strategic board game in which the object is to conquer the world.

    Go is considered by many to be the greatest board game ever invented. It is something like Othello, which is also a great game, in the sense that in both games placement of a disk can allow one player to control the other’s disks. In Othello, players place disks on the board (8 by 8) and flip any disks of the opponent that are in a straight line ending at a disk of the same color as the disk just played by the first player. Corner squares are key.

    Go is a game of entrapment. Placing disks on the board so that the opponent has no outlet allows the first player to control the opponent’s disks.

    We have seen computer programs like Deep Blue and its progeny beat grandmasters, but everyone thought it was impossible to develop a Go program that could beat a nine dan master. Now, due to sheer computational power and heuristic learning, it has been done:


  6. DJ says:

    Isn’t it normally an immediate disqualifier to have some of the theme material at the beginning of the answers (Life and Go) and some at the end (Trouble and Risk)?

    Just sayin’….

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Nope. If you have 3 or 4 of one and just 1 of the other, it’s inelegant. But splitting it 2/2 is generally fine.

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