Wednesday, September 20, 2017

AV Club 9:28 (Ben) 


LAT 4:25 (Gareth) 


NYT  3:32 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Hal Moore’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

If you solved this puzzle correctly and had no idea what the theme was, you are not alone. It solved like an easy themeless. I knew it wasn’t because a) it’s Wednesday and b) there were numbers with some of the clues. Once I solved the puzzle, I had to figure out the theme. At first I thought the numbers might be sending us to look at other entries in the grid – nope. Then I tried putting them in order to see if there was a pattern. There is! And yes, there is a notepad entry, which I didn’t realize was there until I looked at Wordplay to make sure I had the theme correct. Thanks, Martin. The notepad says “When finished, this crossword grid will have 25 things that complete a set, in the order indicated by the clues” and would have saved me a lot of time.

This is how our series starts:

NYT 9/20, solution grid

  • 1d [Persona non grata to a striker [1]] is SCAB.
  • 45d [Pre-A.D. [2]] is BCE. That’s not quite right. BCE means “before the common era” and it’s used to signify dates without explicit reference to the life of Christ, which means that people who use BCE don’t, in general, use AD but rather CE. They couldn’t use CE in the clue because it would nearly duplicate the answer, so I understand why it’s clued this way.
  • 6a [Things in jewel cases [3]] are CDS. Ask your parents, kids. They’ll explain.
  • 7d [He “made me do it,” with “the” [4]] is DEVIL.
  • 24a [Book borrower’s penalty [5]] is LATE FEE.

There are pairs of consecutive letters in alphabetical order: AB in SCAB, BC in BCE, CD in CDS, DE in DEVIL and EF in LATE FEE. And here’s how the series ends:

  • 54d [Like Playboy models [24]] is SEXY
  • 17d [Patrick of “Dirty Dancing” [25]] is SWAYZE.

I’ll leave you to find the rest of them. I like this theme, even though it didn’t contribute at all to solving the puzzle. It’s clean and consistent and Wednesday-appropriate. Hal found in-the-language answers that work for the tricky Scrabbly letters – JK ROWLING and BBQ RIBS particularly impressed me. BMW X SERIES was the most obscure, and it’s still fair. 25 theme answers in a 15×15 is a lot of theme material; I didn’t really feel that the fill suffered as much as I would have expected. There are a lot of partials (Act OF GODPALME d’Or, Le ROI Soleil, etc) but not much junk.

A few other things:

  • 5d [Shah’s domain until 1935] was PERSIA. There was still a Shah after 1935, but the country became Iran.
  • 8d [Like games with several lead changes], such as the one I’m listening to now: SEESAW.
  • 10d [Distant] kind of stumped me, because I’m really tired. I had the F at the end and thought it ended if OFF. The answer is actually ALOOF.
  • More German cars with 23d [Golfs, e.g. [22]]. The answer is VWS.
  • 57d [___ bag (event handout)] is SWAG because you can’t call it a goody bag when you’re giving it to grownups.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’d never heard of the BMW X SERIES. I also didn’t know that County CLARE was north of Limerick.

Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Fending Off” — Jim’s review

To make sense of the title, you’ll need to re-parse it as “F-ending Off.” In other words, the F at the end of each base phrase has been removed.

WSJ – Wed, 9.20.17 – “Fending Off” by Samuel A. Donaldson

  • 17a [Result of using yarn for stitches?KNITTED SCAR Ha! Infection schminfection.  That certainly would be colorful.
  • 23a [Secret wish for the cheese course?] PLEASE BE BRIE. No thanks. I’ll stick with the gouda.
  • 37a [Rototill some recently acquired grazing land?] TURN OVER A NEW LEA. Pretty good grid-spanning find. Except I don’t know how many people actually use the word LEA in practice.
  • 50a [Shearings from Norfolk?] VIRGINIA WOOL. Very good, but you saw this one coming, didn’t you?
  • 62a [Queen with an unusual diet?] GRASS-FED BEE. There certainly is an odd farming mini-theme going on here.

Playful theme which works for me. Unfortunately, before I got to that point, I was uncovering such entries as PSSTS, ELEVS, MENTEE, RFD, ESO, and EEG followed by AGEE. Plus there’s ALEE, ELL, ILE, EEL, ALL, AWL, as well as OTC, ATP, EPPS, and ASSAD. Not exactly heartwarming. But the theme got me turned around and brought the grid back into the positive territory. (Note: Nothing really wrong with EEL, ALL, and AWL, but taken in toto, it felt very repetitive.)

Nice long fill in RIVER DELTA and especially CAREER EXPO. OPTING IN is solid if unexciting. WIRE EDGE [Burr on a knife] gets the side-eye from me, though. It checks out, but I suspect very few people are going to know this term. In case you want to learn more, here are 11 and a half minutes entitled Understanding The Burr or Wire Edge.

Lastly, it’s nice to see Aziz ANSARI in the grid. Just the other night, he, along with co-writer Lena Waithe, won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for an episode of Master of NoneANSARI won the same award last year but this was the first time a black woman has won that award. It was really impressive to see such a diverse Emmy Awards show.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX, “The Lay of the Land” — Ben’s Review

It’s BEQ’s turn at-bat for this week’s AVCX, and he’s lobbed up what felt like a pretty easy baseball-related theme to crack in this week’s puzzle.

54A’s revealer, the GROUND OUT (“Routine play … and a hint to this puzzle’s theme”) was the crux of figuring out what was going on with the 3 theme answers that seemed just a little long to fit in the grid:

  • 18A: Viscous Australian leaf extract that might treat asthma — EUCALYPTUS OIL
  • 28A: Places for sugary refills — SODA FOUNTAINS
  • 45A: Literary character who said “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.” — HOLDEN CAULFIELD

The “ground” of each answer is OUT of the grid, making each of these entries fit in the squares allotted.  The only themer where I found this tricky was 18A, where I had EUCALYPTUS, but couldn’t figure out immediately what went after the S to make some word for ground.  S + OIL, of course, solves that issue nicely.

(Crossword constructors around the world thank Mocedades for ERES TU, runner up at the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest)

The cluing on this one helped make this one feel a little more “AVCX” than your standard puzzle.  I particularly liked the combo of 43D and 62A – ” Like slightly firm elbows, e.g.” for AL DENTE and MERDE (instead of my expected, misspelled DEAUX) for “Macron’s number two?”.  Other fill/cluing I liked: the idea that I always wear my BERET when buying baguettes at the farmer’s market, UDON (my favorite japanese noodle), Pablo NERUDA, POST-PUNK band The Fall, CUE CARD

3.75/5 stars

Roger & Kathy Wienberg’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

I admired the stronger than usual visual element in today’s theme. SCATTERBRAIN is realised by being spelt-out in non-sequential circled letters in three entries. The entries themselves were more on the functional side though: BERMUDAONION, BINARYOPERATION, and PUBLICRELATIONS.

The theme answers are bolstered by two stacks of long acrosses: a [Goal-oriented] SOCCERMOM is lovely clue angle; ABCSPORTS and WALKATHON are also a pair that would be at home in any themeless. New to me was BOPIT, though I was 10 at the time, apparently it passed me by; I thought it was all TAMAGOTCHIs in ’96 (which I suitably eye-rolled at) or was that ’97?

3.25 Stars

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16 Responses to Wednesday, September 20, 2017

  1. Joe Pancake says:

    NYT: Creative, and I enjoyed sussing out the meta. Kudos to the constructor!

  2. David L says:

    I didn’t figure out the theme because I looked at a few of the answers in order and thought, eh, whatever, and didn’t continue. Not all that interesting, imo.

    The clue for Persia sent me to wikipedia, however. When I was growing up (1960s), the country was routinely called Persia and I don’t think I heard of Iran until later. There was indeed an official name change in 1935, but not everyone went along with, and in 1959 the Shah acknowledged as much by declaring that either name was OK. My recollection (which may well be faulty) is that Iran didn’t take off until the Shah was deposed and even now (again according to wikipedia), there are some Iranians in exile who continue to prefer Persia because that name doesn’t have connotations of Islamicist extremism and the like.

    (I’m not criticizing the clue. I just thought this was an interesting bit of history).

  3. Howard B says:

    I did really like the Times puzzle, since once I picked up the theme, it was fun to discover each of the others along the way, kind of like a wordy scavenger hunt.

  4. RSP64 says:

    AVCX was much more difficult than a 3/5 for me. Lots of tough crosses plus the unusual (not unheard of) theme feature.

  5. Joshua Kosman says:

    So, um, no words of demurral about “Like Playboy models” to clue SEXY in NYT? Gosh. I’m very far from the wokest guy on the block; I do find Playboy models sexy (at least, those from the 1970s, my adolescent heyday); and even I found that clue to be … ill-considered. It’s not as though there aren’t a million more interesting and less problematic ways to approach it.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      If I’d blogged the puzzle, yes, I would have mentioned that icky clue. So damned tired of all these male-gaze clues over the years. It’s 2017. Should we not have evolved beyond this by now? [Alluring], that works. [Like a smoldering gaze]. A FITB like [“___ Beast” (2000 Ben Kingsley crime film)] or that Hot Chocolate song title. All of these options are entirely without the sniggering “heh heh” vibe of [Like Playboy models].

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I’d also be good with mixing things up a little. [Like the lead characters in the “Magic Mike” movies], for example. Or [Like a good love scene]. [Like the tango, it’s said]. There are lots of things that are sexy other than Me Look At Pretty Lady.

  6. Bruce N Morton says:

    I also thought it was an excellent puzzle. I seem to remember a similar but even more stunning puzzle , by Trip Payne which went through the alphabet with 13 two- letter sequences throughout the puzzle. I don’t recall exactly how it worked but it was a fantastic puzzle. Does anyone remember it?

    • Lise says:

      I do, but just vaguely. I hope someone else weighs in with something more concrete. Like you, I remember thinking that it was fantastic.

  7. Gareth says:

    Am I alone in finding the ETS / “Star Wars” clue off? Star Wars being in a setting without Earth as a frame of reference and all…

  8. Moss says:

    Can someone explain 2D on the LAT to me? How is BEZEL the correct answer? BEVEL maybe, but that doesn’t work with 17 across. What am I missing?

    • Lise says:

      1. the diagonal face at the end of the blade of a chisel, or the like, leading to the edge.

      • Moss says:

        Thanks. That’s new to me. I’m not seeing that definition anywhere else but I guess is more authoritative than I thought.

  9. Noam D. Elkies says:

    No complaints about extra pairs like the RS in AFTERSHAVE? It was a nice puzzle but lost quite a few style points for such distractions.


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