Wednesday, September 27, 2017

AV Club 7:48 (Ben) 


LAT 5:38 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:34 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

Sorry this is late – a bunch of us went out for drinks after choir and it turned out there was karaoke and did I mention we were all from choir? So anyway.

The puzzle didn’t take me very long, but I misunderstood the revealer and was looking for something else, so I didn’t suss the theme for a little while after I finished. There are circled letters in the puzzle, thusly:

and a revealer spanning the grid at 42a: [Confusing situation … or what this puzzle contains literally?]. The answer is THREE RING CIRCUS, so I started looking for three types of rings in each circle….and then I finally noticed that the circle in the SE is WIRE WALKER. Duh. Each set of circled letters is one of the acts in the circus. The other two are GLASS EATER and FIRE DANCER. I think of a glass eater as more of a sideshow thing, but I guess there really aren’t sideshows anymore. Once I figured it out, I liked the theme. It can’t have been easy to construct; there’s not an overwhelming about of junk in the fill despite the constraints.

A few other things:

  • 3d [News spreader of long ago] is the TOWN CRIER. Do you suppose people leaned out of their windows and shouted “FAKE NEWS” at him?
  • 5d [Polaris, e.g., in astronomy] is one of those clues where I fill in _STAR and then look at the crossing to figure out what letter goes in front. In this case it’s F.
  • 11d [Accountants’ service for low-income individuals] is a TAX CLINIC, and this is definitely a thing. Our local GLBT community center has a monthly legal clinic and a period tax clinic.
  • Baseball! ALOU at 2d, [Surname of three Giants outfielders in 1963] and NOMO at 13d. The three ALOUs were Jesus, Matty, and Felipe. They were brothers, and Felipe’s son Moises also played outfield in the majors. I did not know that Felipe was the first Dominican player to play regularly in the majors.
  • Two gimmes for me in the center: 35d [The “Ba” of BaSO4] and 36d [Epoch characterized by the rise of mammals] – BARIUM and EOCENE, respectively. Your mileage may vary if you’re not part of an MD/Geology PhD marriage.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that SERGE fabric is characterized by diagonal ridges.

One other comment: we talk a lot about the breakfast test, and the fact that we don’t see a lot of Nazis in our puzzles because it would be so distasteful. Others have commented that this doesn’t stop the NYT from using IDI AMIN, also a maniacal murderous dictator, when needed. I was surprised and distressed at the clue for 16a. Surely there are ways to clue WACO without reference to a massacre that killed over 70 people, including a number of children. That doesn’t pass my breakfast test.

Damien Peterson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Fire Proof” — Jim’s review

Each theme entry GETS THE AX (clued as [Is fired, and what each starred answer does]). At first, I couldn’t jibe the AX-addition with the title; I was thinking of fire-axes. But the revealer set me straight and makes for a good basis for a theme.

WSJ – Wed, 9.27.17 – “Fire Proof” by Damien Peterson (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [*One who’s a stickler about maintaining a hairless body?] WAXING NUT. Wingnut. My favorite entry. Reminds me of the film Breaking Away with the dad perplexed by his son’s insistence on shaving his legs.
  • 19a [*Stationery the color of straw?] FLAXY PAPER. Fly paper. Flaxy? I guess that’s a cutesy way of saying “flaxen.”
  • 34a [*Prize money that must be declared?] TAXABLE STAKES. Table stakes. I take it this is a poker term. Not a very whimsical entry.
  • 51a [*Picture of a piece of silverware sent remotely?] SPOON FAXED. Spoon-fed. The clue is a bit of a stretch.

I like the theme, but the entries themselves left me wanting more. Can you think of some other entries that might work? I came up with SAXONS OF ANARCHY (grid-spanner) and FAMILY TAXIES.

Really nice fill (despite all the Xs) in UKULELES, PARABLE, ATHLETIC, PIÑATAS, TACTILE, “I CHOKED,” and TACO BELL. I also liked OOPSY and ROLL UP (though it missed a [First words of “Magical Mystery Tour”] clue).

I especially liked ANTLION [Insect that makes a conical trap]. This little critter looks like a dragonfly as an adult, but the larvae look like those ear-burrowing munchers from The Wrath of Khan. I have always enjoyed watching the machinations of wildlife. See the video below to watch an ANTLION dig a trap and make short work of an ant.

Some clues that caught my attention:

  • 21a [Bother]. AIL. I don’t recall seeing this definition of the word used in a crossword, so it threw me for a bit.
  • 27d [Direct the crew]. COX. I didn’t know this was a verb.
  • 38d [Limited support?]. TRACKS. Tough clue. Needed all the crossings to figure out what it was after.

Nice, solid puzzle with a load of fun fill. Now, enjoy the video.

Byron Walden’s AVCX, “Stretch Runs” — Ben’s Review

There doesn’t seem to be a revealer to the theme in this week’s AVCX puzzle, and it feels a little underdone as a result.  Let’s take a look at those answers:

  • 20A: Hillary Clinton memoir title sorely in need of grawlixes (@#$%&!) — WHAT HAPPENED
  • 27A: Gets T-boned, say — HAS AN ACCIDENT
  • 46A: Transports with sleeper cars — PULLMAN TRAINS
  • 56A: Kidvid series narrated by DJ Lance Rock — YO GABBA GABBA

I’m totally parsing the “Stretch” part of this puzzle’s title, “Stretch Runs”, but I’m not getting much for the “Runs” part other than that there are various parts of YOGA and its associated movements running through the theme entries.  I’m seeing the connections between HATHA, ASANA, MANTRA, and YOGA, but if there’s something deeper I’m afraid it’s passed me entirely by.

(Art of Noise’s sound-collage minimalism makes a good match for the backing of Tom Jones’ cover of “KISS“, 1A)

Other notes:

  • WHAT HAPPENED is a great book (I’m 65% of the way through it and it’s exactly what I wanted it to be as a read)
  • AM VET feels off as a legitimate piece of fill (VET, certainly, but AM VET?).  It’s an abbreviation you’d only see in the crossword.
  • MR LIMPET is nice as fill
  •’s coverage of Megyn Kelly’s NINE AM slot on the Today show is the only coverage of that worth reading
  • I literally did a double take when reading that some cyclists have their LABIA (61A) shortened.  My brain filled that in but I didn’t believe that was the answer until the down clues confirmed it
  • KESHA‘s “Praying” is an excellent track of her equally excellent new album this year, Rainbow.
  • Sorry, it’s a nightstand, not a NIGHT TABLE.
  • Of course SNAILS are genus Helix.  Of course.

3.75/5 stars

Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

I like the idea of this puzzle’s theme, but found the execution a little blah. Bruce Haight has accumulated 5 examples of “a-” words that are heterographs of two part phrases of the form “a NOUN”. Wackiness ensues, at least that’s the idea. ADOREADOOR and ACQUIREACHOIR work, but ATTUNEATOON, ABASEABASS and especially ASSAILASALE (what? how?) don’t really work as well in their new senses…


  • [Bad news for the waiter], NOTIP. As a rule, this is being a dick. There is a subset of people with ridiculously high levels of expectation regarding service, and the world does not revolve around them.
  • [iPhone, e.g., briefly], PDA. I like how this clue is pretending to not be using obsolescent terminology. PDA in the sense of making out in the park feels like it is more in use…
  • [“Flashdance… What a Feeling” singer Cara], IRENE. And co-lyricist. Music by Giorgio who is a genius BTW.
  • [Smallish batteries], AAS. Also, an Afrikaans word meaning “carrion”.
  • [Med. condition with repetitive behavior], OCD. Unusual definition of osteochondritis dissecans.
  • [Time before TV], RADIOERA. Only one generation removed for me, since TV only existed in SA from 1976.
  • [Environment-related], ECOLOGIC. If you’re wondering how that words differs in meaning from ecological… Clear as mud.
  • [Pooch in your lap, maybe], TOYDOG. PSA: if you are female and own one of these, do not clutch it to your bosom during vaccinations. Veterinarians are not trained in the art of giving mammograms…
  • [Somewhat flabby male physique, informally], DADBOD. Answer of the puzzle.
  • [Country’s McEntire], REBA. Her finest moment? Covering Bobbie Gentry

3 Stars

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14 Responses to Wednesday, September 27, 2017

  1. mrdr thom says:

    this difficult collaborative crossword puzzle kickstarter campaign looks interesting and might be worthy of a shout:

  2. Laura B says:

    Clued yours, Jim, and added some:

    [Invaders who precipitated the fall of Rome?]: SAXONS OF ANARCHY
    [Minivans?]: FAMILY TAXIES
    [Political acumen of Representative Waters?]: MAXINE CRAFT
    [Cable installer?]: COAX OPERATION
    [Big-screen movie date?]: IMAX WITH HER

  3. Ethan Friedman says:

    64A / 48D crossing in the NYT is a nasty one: GRAFT/GRIFT both work for the across and the mayor isn’t such a public figure that knowing it’s spelled NAGIN and not NAGAN will help.

    It’s technically triple-checked I guess with the FIRE DANCER circles, but that’s still a tough crossing

  4. James says:

    tk tk tk tk tk tk tk

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      All of our puzzle reviewers are doing this in their spare time, on a volunteer basis. They live in a range of time zones. People have long work days sometimes, or feel under the weather, or have computer woes. I’m grateful to them for helping to keep this site going with their wealth of learned opinions, and not keen on hearing grouses from readers who pay nothing but expect information to be provided on their schedule.

    • Papa John says:

      What the heck is “tk tk tk…tk”?

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