This week’s AV Club puzzle has a meta element with the chance to win a great prize if the answer is submitted by September 10. We’ll have a review/recap up on Monday.
Daniel Raymon’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
I am a terrible judge of how long I spend solving. This felt like it took a long time for a Wednesday, and it was faster than last week. Good thing there’s a timer and we don’t rely on my internal clock.
We have a replace-the-sound theme today with “Y” added to the “O.” Wackiness results.
- 20a [One traveling around Scandinavia?] is a FJORD EXPLORER (Ford). I’m pining for the fjords…
- 35a [Visit to the salon?] is a BEAUTY CALL (booty).
- 40a [Argument that involves pointing?] is a FINGER FEUD (food).
- 49a [Soldiers in line formation?] is a MILITARY QUEUE (coup). This one took me a long time to parse.
I like the fact that the top two theme answers have the shift in the first word and the bottom two in the second word. All the base phrases are solidly in the language and the shift is consistent. It’s not a breakthrough of any kind, but it was fun to solve and I enjoyed it.
A few other things:
- 1a [Female singer with a hit album in every decade since the 1960s] is CHER. Impressive staying power.
- 1d [Course designer] is a CHEF, and I’m glad it was a relatively obvious answer because 14a [Confused state of mind] could be either DAZE or HAZE.
- 12d [Metro area] is one of those words never seen outside of crossword puzzles: URB. Feh.
- 29d [Dangerous circus jobs] are LION TAMERS. Not in so much demand these days.
- 48d [Gig parts] is referring to data storage, not music performances, so the answer is BYTES.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that I.M. PEI turned 100 this year.
I leave you with a sampling of CHER.
Jim Page’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sand Box” — Jim (Peredo)’s review
I didn’t recognize the byline, but Jim has had a handful of NYT grids published over the past several years. Looks like this is his WSJ debut.
The revealer starts at 35a: [With 45-Across, hurricane-prone area, and a clue to this puzzle’s edges]. Answer: OUTER / BANKS.
Too soon? With Houston still reeling from Hurricane Harvey and facing a long and daunting recovery, and with a Category 5 Hurricane Irma making its way toward Puerto Rico, this revealer really could’ve done with a non-hurricane clue, especially since it’s not pertinent to the theme. [North Carolina’s barrier islands] would have worked just fine. I don’t know when clues are set in stone, but it seems like there’s been enough time to change this one.
Anyway, the perimeter entries in the grid define BANKS in different ways.
- 1a [With 9-Across, high-rise feature] ELEVATOR / SET
- 12d [With 32-Down, it’s used in a rebound shot] POOL / CUSHION
- 17d [With 57-Down, drift] PILED UP / SNOW
- 71a [With 72-Across, roll to one side, e.g.] AIR / MANEUVER
These…didn’t work for me, mostly because I’m not a fan of the whole “clues as entries” idea. As a solver, I find it anticlimactic to search for an answer and then discover it’s something made up like “ELEVATOR SET.”
But if you’re okay with that, let’s look deeper. I’ll grant that you can have a bank of elevators and a bank of snow. And I know you can bank off of a POOL CUSHION (if that’s what you call the edge of a pool table) but is a POOL CUSHION a bank? And I know banking as a pilot’s turning maneuver, but is AIR MANEUVER the best description for that? It doesn’t feel complete to me.
I was also thrown off by the theme answers each being divided into two entires. Until I grokked the theme completely, I was wondering if these divisions were actually part of the theme as is occasionally the case in WSJ puzzles. They aren’t; they’re just there to make the grid easier to fill. But still, it was distracting.
And I imagine it was tough enough to fill the grid as it is with those large stacked corners. For the most part they work; I especially like IL POSTINO, MORATORIA, and OIL PAINTS. I’m less fond of START ANEW and some of those rough crossings (ISLIP which I only know from crosswords, PINER, and CRI). But this grid posed some unique structural challenges, and as far as that goes, it’s built quite nicely.
Clues of note:
- 27d [Way around London]. TRAM. Eh? Most people think of the Tube as the way to get around London. According to the Transport for London website, its tram network has 28 km of track serving 39 stops. 29 million passengers used trams in 2016/17 (not exactly sure what that stat means). Compare that to 402 km of track for the Tube serving 270 stops and 5 million passengers per day. London’s tram network only serves a portion of south London and is roughly equivalent to one of the Tube’s smaller lines. A way around parts of London maybe.
- 39d [Lindy’s hop?]. SOLO. Referring, I believe, to Charles Lindbergh’s SOLO “hop” from New York to Paris. Also, the Lindy Hop was a dance popular in the ’30s and ’40s.
- Some clever clues in 25a [Hole in the head] for NOSTRIL, 31a [Park place?] for GARAGE, and 42a [It’s brought to order] for MENU.
All in all, not really my cup of tea theme-wise, but it’s solidly built with good fill and some nice clues.
And now, advice to the crossword lover: “Words are the worst thing ever!”
Samuel A. Donaldson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Today’s theme provided a pleasant scaffolding on which to erect interesting answers. I encountered POWERCOUPLE before I’d filled in much of the grid; that allowed me to fill in the AC’s and DC’s and unlock the other longer answers somewhat more easily. I don’t know if that was the most efficient method of solving, but that’s how it panned out. The first two themers both use a central ‘and’, which is mildly inelegant. However, both JACKANDCOKE and PEACHESANDCREAM are quality answers, and that more than trumps the former consideration for me. The last two of the set are SACREDCOW and BACKGROUNDCHECK.
Pair of bullets:
- [Aquatic plant], ALGA. Well that’s a clumsy clue right there… See this classification here.
- For some reason, the juxtaposition of ITSHERE and OHRATS amuses me… (And not just because a colleague’s pet rat gave birth to eight babies this morning.)
The grid design is heavy on three-letter answers, which doesn’t exactly bother me, except that it meant way more abbrs. than one typically sees…
PBS just aired a fabulous history of London’s Underground Railway under theThames River! It was designed by an American, Mark Brunell, and took 18 years to complete. It included shots of Churchill’s secret wartime offices and current additions for the British Library which is adding five more floors below and can retrieve any book requested in just five minutes!
POOL CUSHION was my last in the WSJ to fall as it didn’t make sense to me either. (Didn’t help that I didn’t know ERIKA, guessed “Erica,” and thus had trouble with the crossing place name clue I didn’t know as well, half wondering if it weren’t UCLA.) Nor did TRAM, and I, too, didn’t care for the nonce theme fill. All in all, not a good puzzle.
Does anyone else feel like the LAT puzzle had way too many abbreviations? MCS, RVED, CLE, SRS, UVA, MIN, IND, ETA, IOC, REI, RET, CTA; ODSON was my least favorite, which could work if it wasn’t for all of the other abbrevs (had to, since it’s apparently the theme). 13 abbreviations! Not to mention partial phrases and short fill in the blanks that felt weak: TEM, LOS (LAS was also in this puzzle), GEO; OFWAR was the biggest gut-wrencher. Also: 41-Across DII clued as “MMDX / V”; construed Roman numeral fills are getting weaker, if you ask me. Am I overreacting?
Personally, I didn’t mind so much – there is quite a bit of medium length fill that was nice: MISSME, INAWAY, MRCLEAN, EBBETS, ITSHERE, OHRATS stood out. Agree that ODSON stinks, but overall kinda breezed over the meh short fill.
Also, the puzzle shares a theme with a pretty recent NYT (not a knock on it), only differing in JACKANDCOKE instead of ACTEDCOOL, which is an improvement.
WSJ: I liked the grid design and that the BANKS all happened at the OUTER edge whereas the OUTER BANKS were in the middle. It reminded me of times playing a game on a Carrom board.
There were numerous entertaining long answers. POOL CUSHION made sense to me as I have often tried banking a ball off the side, which for me is generally a turn-ending MANEUVER. Pool, anyone?
Trouble spots: although I wanted to write in SCI for 9D, I just couldn’t wrap my head around ISLIP (what?), or ELEVATOR SET made up by the constructor – how does “banks” go with that? Banks of elevators? The elevators on an airplane that control changes in pitch?
That is a thousand-word picture. I stand awed. And head for the stairs.
Booty call???? What does that mean???
It’s like a portion of a donkey!
Jim P: you may have missed a little of Jim Page’s oeuvre. I think he’s in his 80s now, with 154 NYT puzzles since 1972 and surely thousands published overall. Jim’s work skews old-school for sure, but he’s a crossword legend and a great guy!
Ah. Thanks, Dan. Yeah, I’d say I missed some of it. I just looked in the Fiend database and no further. Usually I do more research, but I was being lazy, and I’ve only been crosswording for about five years. Thank you for cluing me in.