Wednesday, August 16, 2017

AV Club 8:51 (Ben) 


LAT 3:38 (Gareth) 


NYT  3:39 (Jenni) 


WSJ  5:52 (Laura) 


Andrew Kingsley and John Lieb’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

I like this theme even more than I liked yesterday’s. The puzzle was definitely mid-week easy – maybe a little Tuesday-ish – but the theme took some cogitation. I filled in the revealer and then had to go back and figure it out.

  • 17a [Peter Parker is his alter ego] is, of course, SPIDERMAN. If you don’t have the theme song running through your head, you’re a lot younger than I am.
  • 26a [Grammy-winning electronic music producer and D.J.] is SKRILLEX. I kind of knew this but wasn’t completely sure of the spelling. I guess the  could be a Natick if you don’t know that MINSK is the capital of Belarus. Seems like a fair crossing to me.
  • 36a [Name assumed by billiards great Rudolf Wanderone] is the only “billiards great” I know – MINNESOTA FATS.
  • 49a [Longtime co-worker of Vanna White] is PAT SAJAK.

I wasn’t even sure those were the theme answers, since I couldn’t figure out what they had in common. The revealer confirmed that they were: 60a [Modern exercise option … or what the answers to 17-, 26-, 36- or 49-Across could teach?]. That’s SPIN CLASS.

Aha! SPIDERMAN spins a web. SKRILLEX spins records. MINNESOTA FATS put spin on a billiard ball. PAT SAJAK spins the Wheel of Fortune. Fun theme!

A few other things:

  • 7d [Cloud in the summer] are GNATS. Ugh.
  • 11d [Request at a fine restaurant] is the WINE LIST. Applebee’s has a wine list, so I don’t think that clue holds water. Or wine.
  • 12d [Earth, wind and fire] are ELEMENTS in both the ancient Greek and Ayurvedic traditions, plus, of course, the 1970s transition from R&B to disco. Emma discovered “September” a year or so ago and was astonished to find that her parents could sing along.
  • 37d [Minibar accessory] is ICE TONGS if you stay in fancier hotels than I do.
  • 52a [Chevy’s response to the Mustang] is the CAMARO. I listened to a lot of Earth, Wind, and Fire in my boyfriend’s CAMARO. Ah, high school.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that MINNESOTA FATS started out as Rudolf Wanderone, or that Pelé shared the FIFA Player of the Century award with MARADONA.

I can’t resist leaving you with this because the 1970s, man. What a time it was.

Harold Jones’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Mixed Feelings”—Laura’s write-up

Base phrases have words that anagram to terms denoting emotions; wackiness ensues.

WSJ 8.16.17

WSJ – Jones – 8.16.17 – solution

  • [17a: Hostile feeling that’s fleeting?]: HATE OF THE MOMENT {heat of the moment}
  • [26a: Furious feeling brought on by high elevations?]: MOUNTAIN ANGER {mountain range}
  • [42a: Overcome a jaded feeling?]: MASTER BOREDOM {master bedroom}
  • [56a: Ones who feel euphoric while clipping coupons?]: ELATION CLIPPERS {toenail clippers}

All of these worked nicely as themers — I could even see using them in a sentence, like, “Who are those Nazi fuckers targeting now as their hate of the moment?” Or, “At my home near the Appalachian Trail, I’m feeling some mountain anger at those Nazi fuckers.” Or, “Solving crossword puzzles distracts me from my rage at those Nazi fuckers and also helps me master boredom.” And, uh, “I was delighted to sail on one of those elation clippers during the Tall Ships Regatta last month.” That one’s a little [45d: More avant-garde]: EDGIER.

Let’s talk about [14a: One who’s coming along nicely?]: ESCORT. She’s coming along nicely, as opposed to being coerced? Sure, an ESCORT can be of whatever gender, but come on, and not nicely. And it’s crossing [9d: Comely companion]: ARM CANDY. Really? (Plus [40a: Friendly femme]?) I’m [49d: Tuckered out] TIRED of the implied male gaze of mainstream crossword publishing, so I fixed it: [14a: Legacy of a Ford administration?] and [9d: Command from Mel Brooks to Spaceballs‘ prop department?]. (Sure, [37a: Chum]: BUDDY, I’m [50d: Fresh]: SASSY). ALSO, BONY EMUS SWAM DEEP. TINA GOES VIA LACE COWL. PSYCHO WILL ROBS RAPT ALANS. One more thing: [22a: CBS spinoff of 2004]: CSI:NY appears quite often as fill, but am I the only one who parses it as these guys?

Ben Tausig’s AVCX crossword, “Urban Turnaround” — Ben’s Review

Everyone ready for Lollapuzzoola this weekend?  My NYT times have been on the fast end of my range all week, so I’m hoping that translates to better-than-average performance in the actual competition.  Say hi if you’re there

Editor Ben Tausig has this week’s AVCX puzzle, and the theme’s a bit on the easy side, but very charming:

  • 18A: Queensland ceremony affirming the Jewish faith of a Batman villain? — BRISBANE BANE BRIS
  • 29A: Virginia expo featuring the latest in telecopying technology, plus deep-fried handsets and a band that plays the modem sound? — FAIRFAX FAX FAIR
  • 55A: West Javanese prohibition against manure? — BANDUNG DUNG BAN
  • 70A: What fills the toilets where Napoleon fell? — WATERLOO LOO WATER

Again, it’s pretty simple (city names composed of two words, followed by those words in reverse order), but it gives some nice mental pictures.

(I heard a CRJ/NIN mashup at TCONA a few weeks ago and they’re all I can listen to at the moment. Apologies)

There’s a lot of stuff to like in this puzzle, even with a few staler bits like EPEES, LIEST, ODE, and ERR near the middle: ROKU, LANDFILL, PUBIC, NESTEA, TILDA Swinton, and CLUB SODA

Another great week from AVCX.  See you at Lolla this weekend!

4/5 stars.

Kurt Mengel & Jan-Michele Gianette’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

This is a M?SS vowel progression puzzle. I found myself out of step with this puzzle’s theme phrases. CRITICALMASS, MAKEAMESS (though I had a BAKEA for a while…), HITORMISS – fine. IRISHMOSS is not a seaweed I have heard of though; neither is NOFUSSNOMUSS, which I have heard as NOMESSNOFUSS exclusively, which could not be the answer for at least two reasons…

Not too much JENNA/JANICE was an intersection of proper names I didn’t know, though it was fairly obvious which letter was most plausible. A third female first name that gave me pause was STACIE. Is this Malibu STACIE?

2.5 Stars

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10 Responses to Wednesday, August 16, 2017

  1. Incidentally, today’s NYT puzzle was Puzzle #2 at the recent Boswords tournament. Andrew and John requested special permission from Will for him to let them use it in the tournament, after it had already been accepted for publication in the Times.

  2. David says:

    Rex, on his blog, points out that Spider-Man doesn’t spin webs; he ‘slings’ them or ‘shoots’ them. MN Fats didn’t ‘spin’ billiard balls except incidentally. Mainly he was hitting them or shooting them. Pat Sajak rarely spins the wheel, tho he does on occasion. So this theme felt very weak. In addition, the answers were fairly dusty except SKRILLEX, which was great. IRIS IN felt like a terrible answer to me, but maybe I’m the exception.

    • David L says:

      I thought Mr Parker, not for the first time, was being needlessly pedantic. The revealer suggests that the theme answer character could all “teach” a spinning class — which I think is fair enough. I’m sure Minnesota Fats applied spin to the ball deliberately on many occasions — I could even do it myself, long ago, although not necessarily with the desired results. And I imagine Pat Sajak could teach someone else how to spin the wheel of fortune wheel, although that’s admittedly a low bar.

      That SE corner was a tough spot for me, with KATANA next to IRISIN, crossed by an unfamiliar clue for ANNIE.

      • AboutTheSame says:

        I largely agree with you, David, but I don’t see how Spidey has any qualifications for teaching a spinning class. His spidey powers are his strength; his “webs” and shooter are inventions that have zilch to do with spinning. It was a nice enough puzzle regardless.

        • Sarah says:

          The old Spiderman cartoon theme song contains the lyrics “Spins a web, any size”. so your objection seems unwarranted.

          • About The Same says:

            I could say I’m a purist who only read the comic books, but maybe he made his web thingies spin after he shot them out rather than creating them by spinning sticky stuff filaments. I guess Id say that any puzzle that has to go extremes to justify its theme is somewhat wanting, but to each his or her own. Regards.

  3. Bruce N Morton says:

    Most assuredly Minnesota Fats spun the cue ball deliberately, not incidentally, as would any accomplished pool player. Most important are draw (or low English) and follow (or high English.) To draw the cue ball, hit it low. If you have a sufficiently strong and smooth stroke, a good draw stroke will cause the cue ball to back up with enough speed that you will have to pull your cue out of the way. Follow will cause the cue ball to race forward. Draw and follow can be combined with right or left English to further control the path of the cue ball. I once saw Minnesota Fats in person at the late lamented Ames pool room in NYC. He was a good, but not a great player. Mostly he was an obnoxious loudmouth.

    I enjoyed the puzzle – but – iris in?

  4. PuzzleCraig says:

    This thread on’s forum points out that NO MUSS NO FUSS goes back to at least 1901:

  5. Lois says:

    NYT: I didn’t know IRIS IN but figured out what it must mean. Cute! I usually like movie references, especially to older eras. Crosses were good in this hard puzzle.

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